The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) has released another message attributed to its emir, Abdul Haq al Turkistani. The audio address, which was posted online on May 30, is the latest indication that Abdul Haq is still in charge of the group.
The US thought it killed the TIP’s top man in a 2010 drone strike in Pakistan, but his death was never confirmed.
The TIP claims Abdul Haq was severely injured in the strike and returned to lead the organization in 2014, after recovering from his injuries. He has appeared on at least a few occasions in the TIP’s media since then. [See LWJ report, Turkistan Islamic Party emir thought killed in 2010 reemerged to lead group in 2014.]
In the new speech, the man identified as Abdul Haq calls on his followers to wage jihad “in any corner of the world, wherever they” may be.
Abdul Haq also discusses the TIP’s role in Syria and elsewhere around the globe. He says the group’s primary mission in Syria is to train Muslims to wage jihad against all “enemies of Islam,” so they can help their brothers in “Sham” (Syria).
But the TIP’s members in Syria should also be ready to return to China to fight the government in the western Xinjiang province. The Uighur jihadists must be prepared to wage jihad against the “infidel [Chinese] occupants” in all “spheres,” Abdul Haq says.
Condemns Islamic State, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
Abdul Haq has especially harsh words for the Islamic State and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
He denounces the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate as “illegitimate.” At one point in the TIP video, a still image of Abdul Haq is juxtaposed with images of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (See the screen shot on the right.) Abdul Haq delivers a stinging rebuke to Baghdadi and his followers during this scene.
The TIP’s emir argues that the Islamic State’s “caliphate” lacks the consent of the Muslim community. Because Baghdadi and his subordinates did not garner the approval of Islamic leaders, Abdul Haq says, their “state” lacks the necessary theological footing. The TIP head also denounces the Islamic State’s wanton killing of Muslims, as well as the “caliphate’s” practice of branding others “apostates.”
“Under the sharia law, a caliphate is not declared by a group of people,” Abdul Haq explains, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. “It will be created on the basis of sharia rules and unity among the ummah [worldwide community of Muslims].”
Al Qaeda and its branches, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, as well as other al Qaeda-allied ideologues have all made this same argument repeatedly.
The IMU’s leader, Uthman Ghazi, officially broke from the Taliban-Al Qaeda axis in Aug. 2015, when he swore allegiance to Baghdadi. The TIP’s video includes footage of Ghazi swearing his fealty to the Islamic State’s “caliphate.” Ghazi is shown on the right side of the screen, with a photo of Abdul Haq on the left. (A screen shot can be seen on the reader’s right.)
According to Abdul Haq, the IMU’s decision proved to be disastrous for the group. He chastises the IMU for abandoning its traditional allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “choosing the path of war” against the Taliban. Many IMU fighters who sided with the Islamic State were killed in clashes with the Taliban in Afghanistan shortly afterwards. This led to the collapse of the IMU, according to Abdul Haq.
“The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, for which the oppressed ummah had great hopes, disappeared,” Abu Haq claims.
Abdul Haq’s critique of the IMU is especially important. The TIP and IMU are known to have fought side-by-side in Afghanistan for years. For example, the United Nations notes that the TIP “has maintained close ties” to the IMU.
A member of al Qaeda’s elite shura council
Abdul Haq, who is also known as Maimaitiming Maimaiti, became the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party (also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement) in late 2003 after Hassan Mahsum, the group’s founder, was killed. Mahsum died during clashes with Pakistani troops at an al Qaeda training camp in South Waziristan in Oct. 2003.
Abdul Haq quickly stepped into Mahsum’s shoes. His succession was not surprising. Abdul Haq helped run the TIP’s main training camp in the Tora Bora Mountains prior to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. The training facility provided rudimentary instruction on light arms to new recruits. Several detainees held at Guantanamo identified Abdul Haq as the chief instructor. [See LWJ report, “The Uighurs in their own words”.]
US officials at the detention facility in Guantanamo found that the TIP’s camp was sponsored by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Indeed, the UN found that the TIP has “received significant support from” al Qaeda and the Taliban. The group has had a “close financial relationship with” al Qaeda and the “major sources of funding” for its “activities came from” bin Laden, as well as other sources.
After the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan in late 2001, Abdul Haq helped reestablish the TIP’s camps in Pakistan’s lawless, tribal areas. The Chinese government has pressured Pakistan to dismantle the camps in the past.
In 2005, according to the US Treasury Department, Abdul Haq was awarded a seat on al Qaeda’s elite shura (or advisory) council. He was designated as an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist by Treasury in 2009. The UN also added him to the al Qaeda sanctions list.
Abdul Haq’s influence among jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan is readily apparent. He has served as a mediator in disputes between rival Taliban groups, and has also represented al Qaeda’s shura council in important military matters.
In June 2009, he was reportedly spotted in Pakistan’s tribal areas attending an important meeting with Baitullah Mehsud, then the Pakistani Taliban’s overall commander. According to press reports, Abdul Haq and a senior delegation of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders traveled to Pakistan’s tribal areas to discuss the Pakistani military’s operation in South Waziristan. Among those in attendance was Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was then the operational commander of the Haqqani Network and is now one of the Taliban’s top two deputies. Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader who became the organization’s general manager before he was killed in a US drone strike, was also reportedly in attendance.
Like other jihadists in al Qaeda’s network, Abdul Haq has devoted his time to both guerrilla warfare and planning terrorist attacks.
“In early January 2008,” according to Treasury, he “directed” the TIP’s “military commander to attack various Chinese cities, particularly focusing on the cities holding the Olympic Games.” His men “planned to sabotage the Olympic Games by conducting terrorist attacks within China before the Olympics began.” Abdul Haq has also “sent terrorists to the Middle East to raise funds and buy explosive materials for terrorist attacks against Chinese targets outside China.”
The TIP is part of al Qaeda’s network
The TIP is not subtle about its role in al Qaeda’s international network.
Islam Awazi, the TIP’s official media arm, spliced together Abdul Haq’s audio message with various images of al Qaeda ideologues and leaders.
Unlike Baghdadi, Abdul Haq has nothing but praise for al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.
One scene from the video includes photos of several al Qaeda figures at once. A similar image was used in the online banner advertising the production, which can be seen at the beginning of this article.
In addition to Zawahiri, the TIP video shows AQAP ideologues Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari and Nasser bin Ali al Ansi (both of whom were killed in US drone strikes in 2015), Abu Sulayman al Muhajir (a senior al Qaeda religious official in Syria), Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini (an influential jihadi ideologue based in Syria who is likely a senior al Qaeda official), as well as Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi (two jihadi clerics who are, at a minimum, aligned with al Qaeda).
The TIP fights alongside Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s regional branch in Syria, on a regular basis. The group has played a role in offensives led by Al Nusrah in Jisr al Shughur, Hama and Latakia, the Abu Duhour Airbase, the Al Ghab plain, Khan Touman, and elsewhere.